“That chap I saw you with in Terrazza,” he says after a while, his thumb still drawing leisurely pictures on my skin. “Was he anything—”

“Just. . you know.” I try to give a careless laugh, but I’m feeling so nervous it comes out as a squeak. “Some multimillionaire or other.”

Luke stares intently at me for a second, then looks away.

“Right,” he says, as though closing the subject. “Well. Perhaps we should get you a taxi.” I feel a thud of disappointment, and try not to let it show. “Or maybe. .” He stops.

There’s an endless pause. I can’t quite breathe. Maybe what? What?

“I know them pretty well here,” says Luke at last. “If we wanted to. .” He meets my eyes. “I expect we could stay.”

I feel an electric shock go through my body.

“Would you like to?”

Unable to speak, I nod my head.

“OK, wait here,” says Luke. “I’ll go and see if I can get rooms.” He gets up and I stare after him in a daze, my hand all cold and bereft.

Rooms. Rooms, plural. So he didn’t mean—

He doesn’t want to—

Oh God. What’s wrong with me?

We travel up in the lift in silence with a smart porter. I glance a couple of times at Luke’s face, but he’s staring impassively ahead. In fact, he’s barely said a word since he went off to ask about staying. I feel a bit chilly inside — in fact, to be honest, I’m half wishing they hadn’t had any spare rooms for us after all. But it turns out there was a big cancellation tonight — and it also turns out that Luke is some big-shot client of the Ritz. When I commented on how nice they were being to us, he shrugged and said he often puts up business contacts here.

Business contacts. So is that what I am? Oh, it doesn’t make any sense. I wish I’d gone home after all.

We walk along an opulent corridor in complete silence — then the porter swings open a door and ushers us into a spectacularly beautiful room, furnished with a big double bed and plushy chairs. He places my briefcase and AppleMac on the luggage rail, then Luke gives him a bill and he disappears.

There’s an awkward pause.

“Well,” says Luke. “Here you are.”

“Yes,” I say in a voice which doesn’t sound like mine. “Thanks. . thank you. And for dinner.” I clear my throat. “It was delicious.”

We seem to have turned into complete strangers.

“Well,” says Luke again, and glances at his watch. “It’s late. You’ll probably be wanting to. .” He stops, and there’s a sharp, waiting silence.

My hands are twisted in a nervous knot. I don’t dare look at him.

“I’ll be off, then,” says Luke at last. “I hope you have a—”

“Don’t go,” I hear myself say, and blush furiously. “Don’t go yet. We could just. .” I swallow. “Talk, or something.”

I look up and meet his eyes, and something fearful starts to pound within me. Slowly he walks toward me, until he’s standing just in front of me. I can just smell the scent of his aftershave and hear the crisp cotton rustle of his shirt as he moves. My whole body’s prickling with anticipation. Oh God, I want to touch him. But I daren’t. I daren’t move anything.

“We could just talk, or something,” he echoes, and slowly lifts his hands until they cup my face.

And then he kisses me.

His mouth is on mine, gently parting my lips, and I feel a white-hot dart of excitement. His hands are running down my back and cupping my bottom, fingering under the hem of my skirt. And then he pulls me tightly toward him, and suddenly I’m finding it hard to breathe.

It’s pretty obvious we’re not going to do much talking at all.

Twenty-four

MMM.

Bliss.

Lying in the most comfortable bed in the world, feeling all dreamy and smiley and happy, letting the morning sunlight play on my closed eyelids. Stretching my arms above my head, then collapsing contentedly onto an enormous mound of pillows. Oh, I feel good. I feel. . sated. Last night was absolutely. .

Well, let’s just say it was. .

Oh, come on. You don’t need to know that. Anyway, can’t you use your imagination? Of course you can.

I open my eyes, sit up, and reach for my cup of room-service coffee. Luke’s in the shower, so it’s just me alone with my thoughts. And I don’t want to sound all pretentious here — but I do feel this is a pretty significant day in my life.

It’s not just Luke — although the whole thing was. . well, amazing, actually. God, he really knows how to. .

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